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Friday, April 23, 2021

Who’s in town: Whitney, Croce, Fanfare and Joyce DiDonato

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What’s celebrating 60 years of dance this season? Not the birthplace of modern dance itself: RKO Studios, in Hollywood, and the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. but Arlene Croce’s pioneering dance and performance venue in Houston, now the Black Box Theatre, nestled in the city’s congested East End. Why? Well, more than anything, the dance company that Croce founded in 1967 shows that the institution is still resilient — it just needs a bit of lightening.

The drama, of course, is always the one in the dance, and this season’s adventures carry on in three main ways. In addition to “Revelations,” the All-Arlene program features the only performance of the landmark Russian choreographer Boris Arjovand’s “Duets,” as well as the always thrilling Shen Wei Dance Ensemble, and the uniquely eclectic Sadler’s Wells Dance Theatre.

The centerpiece — dare I say the only one — of the season is a very, very big show, All-Arlene 2019, featuring a sublime performance of Joyce DiDonato in an all-Arlene evening. (She was last here in 2012 and sang alongside Dietrich Faircloth in “Lotte Lenya: Nutcracker Suite,” I must say.)

Her honor came as no surprise, given the extraordinary series of shows Croce has organized for its 40th anniversary: Martha Graham’s “A Celebration,” “Amadeus,” David Parsons’ “Iris,” Farkas Karam’s “Ever Plucked the Wing of a Goose,” Kent Stowell’s “The Tale of Romeo and Juliet” and José Limón’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

There’s an almost guaranteed thrill to witness an iconic American artist, woman or man, bringing one of the great masterpieces to life before a sellout crowd.

The All-Arlene 2019 performances go from Oct. 23 to 26 at the BTT; get tickets at arlenecroce.com. You should also check out BlackBoxHouston.com.

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